Saturday, August 25, 2012

Aston Villa vs. Everton preview

Any fans expecting Paul Lambert to provide a quick fix for Aston Villa this season were given a quick reality check in the season opening defeat against West Ham at Upton Park. Simply not having Alex McLeish is not going to be a magic tonic at Villa Park. That being said, there were some encouraging signs, not least the 66% possession that Villa had, a huge improvement on the previous campaign.

Lambert showed impressive tactical flexibility when in charge of Norwich, and for the first home game of the season, the manager might try a different formation from that seen in the game against West Ham. Nathan Delfouneso is available, and the striker could just be the kind of player who flourishes under Lambert. Barry Bannan's composure on the ball might come in handy in a home game, and he will also compliment Stephen Ireland's movement better than Fabian Delph.

Everton delivered a truly magnificent performance to beat Manchester United at home in the first game of the season. Everton fans would hope that the victory is a sign that this might finally be the season where Everton carry forward their impressive momentum that they always seem to generate in the second half of a season. If Everton maintain their form throughout the season, a battle for the European places isn't out of the question.

The Everton players put in a lot of effort against United on Monday, and they are bound to knackered. Two of their key players, centre-back Sylvain Distin and forward Nikica Jelavic are doubtful for the game. If Jelavic doesn't recover in time, Manager David Moyes could select either one of two new arrivals, Steven Naismith or Kevin Mirallas. In defence, Johnny Heitinga could slot in seamlessly.

The midfield should once again feature the unheralded excellence of Leon Osman, the trickery of Steven Pienaar, and the indomitable Marouane Fellaini, surely now Everton's most important player. Well-known for his aerial prowess, Fellaini is a player with an excellent football brain allied with a brilliant work ethic.

Aston Villa and Everton played out two draws last season, and a repeat on this occasion is likely. Everton's more creative midfield should dominate, but with fatigue bound to play a factor and Aston Villa's players eager to impress Lambert at home, a stalemate might ensue.